The lesser of two…what, now?

Exactly a week ago today I voted in the Wisconsin primaries.  I had a choice: vote for the Republican senatorial nominee I’d most like to see run against Tammy Baldwin – a lady who earned my respect and a fair amount of loyalty for the Executive Branch Accountability Act – or vote in all the local offices where the Democratic primary pretty much decides who gets the office because there is no Republican opposition in Madison.

I am not  Republican.  Nor am I Democrat.  When people ask me for my party affiliation, these days I reply with a simple, “Pissed.”  So there’s a small question of whether I should vote in either of the primaries, since I’m not willing to be a team player on either side.  This question doesn’t bother me at all; I get to vote in one of them and the only question for me is the meta-game one of which one I ought to vote in.

During the 2010 elections, I voted a straight party ticket for the first time ever and felt extremely dirty about it.  I was very much voting against people, rather than for them, and while my traditional response to not having a candidate I approve of has been to write somebody in, the polls looked close enough that I didn’t dare, because one set of candidates was so very much scarier than the other set.

That didn’t work out too well for me.  Or a lot of other people.  We tried to fix it.  That didn’t work out, either.  So there I was last Tuesday, trying to decide which primary to vote in.  A double dip in the recession, or even just Wisconsin lagging in a recovery, could well kill my fledgling Real Estate career of which I am rather fond.  The Republicans are after my uterus, the school system, and have an inexplicable hatred of some projects I rather like (such as trains, and wind turbines).  I have a lot of reasons to engage in strategic meta-game voting to try making them better, or at least keeping them in check.  I have some seriously powerful reasons to hold my nose and do the classic two-party “Lesser of two evils” voting.

Let’s face it: I vote not because I think it does any good, but because nobody in power has any reason to listen to me unless I’m at least willing to show up to the polls and I find bitching more satisfying when somebody has to listen to me.  I have a spectacular record for voting for losers.  Some of my friends have asked me to vote from Romney because they figure it’ll doom him.  But until 2010, I was really comfortable with the idea that I’d never vote for somebody who had a chance.  It’s my little rebellion: I will show up with my vote, but if nobody bothered to be worth getting it, then I’ll burn it right in front of them.  I am not at all ashamed of my streak of petty spitefulness, and it makes this sort of voting extremely satisfying.

Problem is, that sort of voting doesn’t really accomplish much.  Nobody cares about the lone under-30-voter lodging a protest vote.  I’d need a cohort of angry people ready to show up and burn their votes with me and my generation appears to collectively be a sack of lazy fucks who can’t find ten minutes to go draw a few black lines even when they have a two week window to do it in.*  So here I am, burdened with responsibility, staring at polling data, and trying to see all the angles in the political meta-game.

Then I had an epiphany, and it was this: Fuck that.  I’m cynical.  I’m often within a hair’s breadth of nihilism.  Being angry all the time is exhausting, but so is working my ass off on something that isn’t going to work with a bunch of people who aren’t interested in doing the meta-gaming they have to if they actually want to succeed.  At least anger keeps me warm at night.

Given the similarities of the platforms and backgrounds of the Republican senatorial candidates, the strategically correct solution to the problem was to vote for the Republican least likely to win against Baldwin, since any of the likely winners on the other half of the ticket would be adequately acceptable.  The emotionally comforting but less optimized strategy would be to vote for Tommy Thompson because he’s the least scary of the Republican candidates and that limits how bad the outcome of the general election can be.

I voted in the Democratic primary.

To anybody who wants to argue that I need to vote for Obama because a Republican White House would be a scary disaster I say this: From now on, it’s all about me and a book of matches.  Cope.

*This is the nicest thing I’ve said about my generation since June 5.  Seriously.

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5 thoughts on “The lesser of two…what, now?

  1. Where I live, if you vote in the republican primary, you’re locked into voting on the republican ballot in November, and vice versa. It pisses me off SO MUCH because there are quite a number of races in my area where there are no Democratic candidates, but if I want to vote for Obama in November (and I do, but if you don’t that’s your business and I respect that), then I can’t vote for my choice in any of the other races. I really hate the primary systems. I just want to vote for the best (or least bad) candidate, regardless of their party affiliation. I know, I am naive.

    • I absolutely despise the party system in this country. It’s one of the things that absolutely has to change for politics to turn into something actually functional. Wisconsin doesn’t lock you in based on which primary you voted in, (both parties are on the same ballot, you’re just limited to voting on only one side of the ballot), which is better than other places. But there was literally no overlap between offices for the primaries – the Senatorial race only had a Republican primary, and all of the other offices only had a Democratic primary. Being forced to choose between whether you have a say in the senatorial race or your local offices is absurd.

    • I’m very surprised that that’s legal – I thought anything that involved promising your vote (in a binding way) for a federal election was pretty much right out. Do they have some loophole where you are to get around the right to a private ballot?

      In reply to the main post, because it would be even sillier to leave two super late comments, I actually think it’s quite reasonable to prioritize the local Democratic primary over the state-wide Republican one. In part because there are so many fewer voters, in part because significant shifts do need to start at the lower levels, and in part because I’m highly dubious about the idea that there often exist candidates who can win primaries – against people who could win the general election – but cannot themselves win the general election. Then again, I was faced with the same choice and also voted in the Democratic primary, so there may be self-justification bias at work here.

      • It’s a mechanism designed to keep you from screwing with the other party’s primary. They get away with it because you haven’t promised to vote for x, (and there’s no quid pro quo), you’ve just removed any option of voting for anybody not x.

      • That still sounds incredibly shifty to me, even though I’m not disbelieving that somehow judges have decided this is okay. I’m used to closed primaries like Wisconsin’s, or even ones where you need to be a registered member of a party in order to vote in that party’s primary at all, but the idea of not being able to vote against a party seems incredibly contrary to what voting’s supposed to be about. (Not, you know, that this is the one blemish on our otherwise pure democracy, of course.)

        Also, huh, does WordPress really allow only three levels of comment nesting? That’s odd.

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